Zugspitze, 2962 m
A winterly ascent of the Jubiläumsgrat ridge from Zugspitze to Alpspitze.
Climbing the Jubiläumsgrat – one of the most interesting ridge traverses in the eastern Alps – in winter conditions? Why not? In summertime the ridge is a great day climbing tour between Zugspitze and Alpspitze, but in wintertime the tour offers combined terrain and often takes two days of climbing.
For our ascent we have chosen the beginning of April, when the amount of snow has well settled and the risk of overhanging cornices seems manageable. Our tour begins at the barrier on the terrace above the restaurant of the Zugspitze, from where you take the few meters on crampons to the summit. It’s a strange way to start this beautiful tour at Germany’s highest mountain instead of ending it here. But the view is wonderful and the day promises to be great. So we take a quick summit photo and off we go.
Climbing the ridge in the direction from the Zugspitze to the Alpspitze offers some advantages and with the current snow conditions, it is the best option in my opinion. The first half of the ridge is almost without any belaying option, with climbing difficulties up to grade 3 UIAA. Wearing crampons it’s a good idea to climb this section early in the morning. Except for one or two rappel ankers, the tour has to be climbed completely without any rope protection. Due to the snow conditions, the summer reference times are significantly exceeded. High focus is mandatory to climb on brittle rock and exposed terrain. Because many climbing sections have to be climbed without any protection, the Jubiläumsgrat is a serious alpine climbing trip, which requires good experience in mountaineering and great fitness under those circumstances.
The ridge is characterized by a constantly up and down – once you’ve climbed one of the countless peaks along the ridge, the next jagged obstacle is already opening up. Along the ridge you climb the Innere Höllentalspitze and the Mittlere Höllentalspitze (2743 m). Our goal is the bivouac hut Grathütterl in about half of the route. We have all the equipment to make us a quiet comfortable night on the ridge. Additionally we have plenty of fresh snow for melting and cooking.
The next day we climb up on the Äußere Höllentalspitze, from which one can experience a great sunrise. The second part of the ridge traverse offers wired protection on the most essential sections, but mostly covered under snow in winter. Climbing up the Vollkarspitze (2618 m) is probably the steepest part of the entire tour. Along the way to the Alpspitze we bypass the Hochblassen on its northern side to the Grießkarscharte, from were we climb the final ascent to the Alpspitze.
From the top of the Alpspitze you have a wonderful view over the entire ridge to the Zugspitze. The Jubiläumsgrat is a magnificent tour, but only recommended in perfect weather conditions. Even experienced and well trained climbers come to their limits. But the effort is worth it – the view is fantastic!
Let’s see where it is:
Ferdinand Henning in 1897.
First winter ascent: Karl von Kraus and Karl Wien on March 19th – 20th, 1927.
April 2nd – 3rd, 2011, together with Dirk Emrich.
Speed record in summer:
2013 by Ludwig Gay-Widmann in 1.27 hours (Average climbing time: 6.5 hours).
My solo best time in summer:
July 21st, 2015 in 3.28 hours (summit Zugspitze – summit Alpspitze).
From Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Grainau, follow the sign in direction Eibsee to the cable car station of the Zugspitze.
Best time of the year:
The tour is accessible all year round, but should only be undertaken on very stable weather! The ridge is very dangerous on bad weather conditions or thunderstorms because it is highly exposed and offers almost no protection!
The partly very exposed ridge has climbing difficulties up to grade 3 UIAA. The two cruxes are a sleek gully and a short overhang in the western part. It is absolutely necessary to be experienced in climbing without a rope in exposed passages and being absolutely free from giddiness. The ridge is sometimes only as wide as your shoulder and breaks off several hundred meters to the northern Höllental and the southern Zugspitzplatt.
About 8,1 km climbing distance with phantastic views.
Rappel anchors are bolted (very useful in winter), fixed ropes on cruxes in the second part (partly under snow).
The only way to escape a thunderstorm is the Brunntalgrat – a ridge to the southern Knorrhütte. It has to be climbed down free (about 1,5 hours). All other supposely good looking scree gullies end on a steep edge, on which numerous climbers crashed to death – be warned and use the only emergency descent at Brunntalgrat!
Climbing gear for winter conditions:
20 m rope for rappeling, crampons and ice axe.
GPS coordinates of the fixed bivouac:
N 47° 25' 15", E 11° 01' 35" (» Google Maps)